Question: Catherine asks – I want to have a tattoo on my hand saying “By the Grace of God” so every time I do something I always remember this is God’s work not mine and I’m offering it to Him. Is it okay to have a tattoo? I asked my mom if I can have a tattoo and she replied, “It’s okay if it’s okay with God.” I asked Christian friends about having a tattoo and they say it’s okay. But my mom wants an answer not based on what I want but she wants it to be biblically based.
Answer: To tattoo or not to tattoo? This is a question that I believe falls under “gray areas” or areas/issues where the bible is not very clear. There is a verse in Leviticus 19:28 which says, “do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.” However, in looking at this verse in context, we see that the whole passage in Leviticus deals specifically with the pagan rituals of the people living around the Israelites. In particular, this verse on tattoos refers to the custom among the pagan nations to pierce themselves or tattoo themselves when a member of the family died. This tattooing or piercing was done to appease the idols they worship to accept their departed relative. God therefore gave this command (and other commandments in the other surrounding verses) to set apart his people from the pagan cultures. The focus is to prohibit heathen worship and witchcraft. He does this to protect His chosen people, because He knows this will lead them away from Him.
Although this is a brief treatment of this subject, the bottom line is that the Bible does not clearly define tattoos and body piercing as a sin. Because the Bible does not clearly define tattoos as a sin, we should look at other verses that may lead us to the right decision.
Romans 14 talks about the weak and the strong in faith. Although the focus of the examples given in this chapter is on clean and unclean food, the principle that we can get from the chapter is summarized in verses 13 to
18: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” In short, if there is anything that you will do that will make your brother/sister stumble, then you are no longer acting in love, as you may destroy your brother/sister’s faith by what you do.
Your intention to be tattooed “By the Grace of God” to remind you that what you’re doing is God’s work and your offering to Him may be very clear to you and very good for you. But to other people who may not know you or your intentions, Romans 14:16 reminds us “do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.” The questions you may want to ask yourself are: Will my tattoo be a source of contention among my loved ones, brothers and sisters in Christ, and non-believers I would be ministering to? Will my tattoo cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble? Do I have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord regarding the decision to get the tattoo? Will I want this tattoo years from now (consider too the effects of skin sagging and aging)? Is my decision based on faith and will the result be glorifying to God? Will my parents and family approve, and/or will my future spouse want me to have this tattoo?
Since people react to tattoos, smoking, short skirts, partying, smoking, and other things in unpredictable ways, you must determine what your “audience” (Christian and non-Christian) will think about Christians (using you as the example of their admiration or scorn) if they appear or behave in some way.
You may also consider the health risks involved in getting a tattoo, such as MRSA, allergic reactions, keloids, hepatitis, HIV, among others. People with tattoos also cannot donate blood. We should remember that our bodies are not our own, and whatever we do with it, it should first pass through the approval of its owner, God. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your body.”
Ultimately, the decision is between you and God. Though it may not be a black and white issue, there is a right choice for each individual. Take some time to honestly pray about it and the Lord will show you what to do. (Jaymee Bernardo)